Writing Challenge: A Medical Conflict

Are you thinking of submitting to the Harlequin Medical Romance Blitz? Has our Monday post from the Love Inspired team got you thinking about romantic conflict in your plot? This week’s writing challenge combines both!

Dr. Hallie Bloom is new to Elizabeth Blackwell Medical Center. The pressure’s on to prove her worth and pay off the crushing debt from med school that two years of disaster relief in Haiti has done nothing to lessen. It’s irritating that wealthy, accomplished trauma surgeon Jelani Robinson seems to have it so easy – even more so given he’s gorgeous and really quite charming. But Jelani isn’t all that he seems…

In a short scene, illustrate the internal romantic conflict between these two ER docs. Show us, in the words of Monday’s post, “The reason why your characters will not and cannot fall in love.”

Post your short scene in the comments anytime between now and Sunday, March 10, 2019 and we’ll check back with you on Monday!

31 replies on “Writing Challenge: A Medical Conflict”

Jelani Robinson stared down at the calendar on his tablet. Hallie Bloom was late for her appointment. If she wanted to be on his team during this rotation she needed to learn that time wasn’t flexible. That minutes, seconds, made all the difference when saving lives. He’d learned the hard way. Too late for some lives. For his family, his wife and their two children. It had been almost ten years, but the memories were sharp and clear. Those memories were what gave him his focus. His drive.

Hallie sucked in a deep breath as she paused outside the senior surgeon’s office. This was not a good start to her six weeks working with Doctor Robinson. He was a charmer in his own way, always courteous to staff, but cold. And if you made a mistake, his rebuke was sharper than the knives he wielded expertly under incredible pressure. She’d been the recipient of the first in the orientation week. Now she was certain to be on the receiving end of the second.
She knocked briskly and his deep voice responded with a brief command to enter.
Sliding into the room and closing the door behind her, Hallie was conscious of his chilly black gaze sweeping over her in the pale blue scrubs she’d been wearing all morning. It was standard issue but somehow, she always felt scruffy. Even now she could feel another curl escaping from the paper cap.
“Is there a reason for you being…” he paused to glance at his watch, “fifteen minutes late?”
“I was with a patient.”
Dark brows rose. “I was unaware you’d been given responsibility for any patients.”
Her mouth was devoid of moisture and she struggled to get the words out. “It was in the children’s ward. The CPU. One of the children went into cardiac arrest and I felt it advisable to stay until I was certain another hand wasn’t needed.” She’d been studying the charts when the machine had given the warning blip. The relief nurse had been attending another child.
The long look from the surgeon prickled her skin. “I see.”
She had an idea he saw right through her. Did he see the panic underlying her calm surface? She had to make a success of this placement. She’d wanted to work at the Elizabeth Blackwell Medical Centre since she’d been a patient as a teenager. The staff had inspired her to pull up her grades and make the extra effort to get into medical school. Even get a scholarship that first year. But the remaining debt was crippling. Spending two years gaining experience in Haiti had been as much a heart decision as a career decision, but the pay had been minimal.
If this man knew she was moonlighting in a second job to make ends meet, he’d crucify her. “Total dedication. Single minded.” His words on the first day she and the other new doctor arrived. His idea of the qualities necessary for his team.
She had a feeling playing hostess and singing at a nightclub did not come under his list of desirable attributes for a surgeon under his supervision.

Excellent! You really showed a lot about the characters in that one small scene. I wish this were a real book.

I agree with Kim and Sally, Fiona! You’ve captivated me with these characters in just this short scene and I got a clear sense of where the romantic obstacle lies between these two. Well done!

Hallie was expecting Dr. Jelani Robinson’s apartment to be nice. After all, trauma surgeons were well-compensated, and he was apparently not burdened with student loans. She had expected to see a nice, medium sized Manhattan apartment with hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, an upscale apartment, but one a regular person with a good job could afford.

She was not expecting this.

There was no hallway. The elevator opened directly into the penthouse, a wide, airy space filled with works of art. An original Andy Warhol hung on the wall, and several modern sculptures surrounded a grand piano. By the spiral staircase stood a ten-foot Christmas tree, decorated in what Hallie was sure were expensive, antique ornaments. She compared it to the cramped apartment she shared with Auntie Beth and their menorah from the dollar store. If the comparison weren’t so sad, she would have laughed.

“Pretty nice, huh?” Charmaine said, after they handed their wraps to the uniformed maid. Another server handed her a glass of champagne.

Hallie nodded. “How much does he bill?” She was a trauma surgeon as well, but even without her student loan payment, she would never be able to afford something like this.

Charmaine laughed. “Girl, this isn’t his apartment. It’s his father’s.”

Hallie took a stuffed mushroom off another tray. “Is his father a doctor?”

Charmaine choked on her bacon-wrapped shrimp. “Are you serious? Don’t you know anything?”

“About what?” Hallie wasn’t offended, but she didn’t know what she didn’t know about.

“Music. Motown music. Jelani’s dad is Little Davey Detroit.”

Hallie was silent, her mouth opened in shock. Charmaine continued.

“That’s all we’ve been talking about at lunch. You really have to join us sometime. Davey Detroit’s real name is David Robinson. Jelani is his oldest son. He wrote that song about him, you know. . .”

“Yes, I know the song.”They played it on the soft rock station regularly. “So his mother is. . .”

“The supermodel, Charlie Tingley. She’s right over there. Oh, she must have had some work done, she looks almost like she did back in the 80’s.”

Hallie glanced at a beautiful blonde woman, sipping champagne and laughing with another guest.

So that explained Jelani’s flawless tan complexion and his fine, even facial features. He was one good-looking man, much better looking than Pierre.

Pierre. No, she wouldn’t think about him tonight. Not at this fine holiday party.

Charmaine continued. “And you’re his date tonight, Hal. Just think. If you get married, you’ll be rich.”

A feeling of panic rose in Hallie. “Get married?” He’ll never marry me, she thought. Never. Suddenly, her last conversation with Pierre took over her head, as it had so many times before.

“It’s not that I don’t love you,” Pierre had said. “I love what you’ve done for my people. How many babies will be able to see because of you? All of the island will be grateful to you forever. I love you but I can never marry you. You see, as the Crown Prince of St. Angelique, I must choose my princess with care. Someday we will be back on the throne. And I must marry a woman who is either Haitian or from my own tiny island right next to Haiti.”

“So you can’t marry me because I’m American?”

“And white. And Jewish. And poor. I am sorry, Mon Cherie, my parents are horrible snobs. But I cannot defy them. So let’s just make love one last time, then say adieu forever.”

Charmaine snapped her out of her flashback. “Hallie, are you OK?”

“I’m sorry, I just had a flashback. I’m sorry.”

“Well, never mind. Look who just came down those fancy stairs! Go give him a big kiss!”

Hallie nodded but didn’t make a move. The similarities between Pierre’s background and Jelani’s were too similar. There was no reason to suspect that Davey or Charlie were bigots like the King and Queen of St. Angelique, but they were still royalty of sorts. All she could do was picture the breakup scene in a couple of years when her and Jelani’s differences tore them apart. No, she wouldn’t kiss him. She couldn’t. This relationship would go nowhere. She couldn’t have her heart broken again.

Intriguing conflict you’ve established here, Kimberley! I’m curious about what Jelani’s hang-ups towards her are, so don’t be afraid to hint at that, too. Nicely done!

Dr. Robinson walked down the hallway of the hospital heading to the ER department. Dr. Bloom thought strode was a better word. “He probably doesn’t struggle with anything I wager,” she said to herself as she picked up a new file. She knew she should be more polite, she needed this job. But she had been through too much with too many people who behaved like Dr. Robinson. Her family for one, always telling her how bad she was. She felt like she was playing eternal catch up with everybody, but they always won.

Dr. Robinson smiled at her when she walked by. The emergency department at Elizabeth Blackwell kept you on your toes but it was good for a new doctor cutting her teeth on trauma medicine. It reminded her a bit of the original Elizabeth Blackwell and what she went through as a new physician.

“Dr Bloom would you come here for a moment?” Dr Robinson asked cordially.

“Oh that man,” she said under her breath. “He is so pompous.”

“What can I do for you Dr. Robinson?” she asked as she stopped beside the bed of the new patient. A patient that might’ve been her if she had not had the breaks she was blessed with.

“Have you ever seen such an extreme self inflicted wound before?”

Hallie said with more bravado then she felt, “Well I’ve been to Haiti. I’ve seen some awful problems.” She asked the patient, a young woman about her age. “What made you do this ma am?”

“I didn’t mean it to be so bad. I’m just so embarrassed,” Julie said sheepishly trying to keep herself whole.

“Don’t worry Julie, “ Dr. Bloom said reading her chart, “We will help you. Everything will be okay.”

“Miss.” Dr. Robinson said cutting in. This is serious. We are going to get a psych consult down here. Are you trying to get attention? The psych ward is no picnic. People who do what you do belong there.”

They both left the girl weeping.

“Why would you say that to her!” Dr. Bloom said her eyes blazing.

“If she can’t stand the heat, she should get out of the kitchen!”

“What? That makes no sense. It’s called compassion doctor you might want to try some.”

“I know you are new and want to fit in. But I don’t have use for people who harm themselves. I am doctor. I want to save lives, not patch up people who are trying to take them.”

“What does that mean?” Dr. Bloom knew she was raising her voice but she couldn’t help it. “We swore an oath.”

“Yeah that oath didn’t help my wife. I wasn’t able to save her. She deserved a good life, and we had one, but now she’s gone. All the medical equipment in this hospital and she died!” Dr. Robinson didn’t mean to say that, but the job often took him to an ugly place. He even thought about quitting after what happened but he knew his wife Evie wouldn’t have wanted him too on account of her.

“I’m so sorry Jelani. I didn’t know.” Dr. Bloom said empathetically.

“Well now you do. My life isn’t as perfect as you think it is. I asked you to consult with me because I was having a problem and I thought you might be able to add expertise, not pampering.”

“But you don’t need help,” she said startled.

“Well maybe I do,” he said angrily as he walked away.

She watched after him, wondering.

It’s clear these two have gotten the wrong impression of each other! This made me curious to know more about how Dr. Robinson’s past has affected his outlook. Thanks for participating, Cheryl Anne!

Hallie Bloom entered the office and slammed her records down on the desk. She’d been examining the latest intake into A&E, a young girl who’d been in a car accident, and just as she was about to suggest an MRI scan, that damned Jelani Robinson had sauntered along, prodded and poked at her patient then coldly demanded the scan himself, before turning abruptly and walking off. Why couldn’t he have consulted with her? Quite frankly, she felt he’d made her look incompetent and now she was infuriated. Okay, maybe she was new to big city trauma departments, but she’d had enough field experience to hold her own against anyone. Two years in Haiti as a doctor in the medical disaster relief group obviously counted for nothing here.
But, she needed this job to repay her training debts, still hanging over her from finally qualifying as an accident and emergency doctor. The last thing she needed, no matter how the female staff gazed at him adoringly whenever he was around, was Jelani Robinson, someone so perfect, so obviously established, so damned good-looking, breathing down her neck and questioning everything she did! In her opinion, he’d chosen the easy route, obviously climbing the ladder within the safe confines of large hospitals until reaching consultancy level. She sat down and sighed, feeling nothing but contempt for someone who’d never proved himself. In fact, she’d heard he was so well-off he didn’t even need to work, which was keeping the job from someone else who might need the money! Well, she wasn’t going to succumb to his dark good looks, that was for sure!
In another part of the department, Jelani sat, chin propped on his hand, gazing unseeingly out of the window as pain roiled through him. He’d been distracted a few moments ago when he’d stopped by Hallie Bloom’s patient. His aim had been to ensure Hallie was okay and settling in, but as he’d gazed down at the girl lying on the bed, the present surroundings had faded away and instead he’d been thrown back to that day, that dreadful, dreadful day, when he’d stopped at the scene of an accident and found his beloved wife and daughter were two of the victims. Jelani shut his eyes, willing the scenes to leave him, but the girl today had been about the same age as sweet little Annie.
He never knew when these episodes would strike. Usually not when he was working, but that young girl out there…he sighed and hoped she’d be okay. It had been suggested to him that maybe A&E wasn’t the best place to be, but it kept him busy. And being busy mostly stopped him thinking about Claire and Annie. Off-duty was another matter. Off-duty, and as often as not, all the pain, loss and longing would sweep over him like a massive tidal wave, threatening to pull him under. With a determined effort, Jelani dragged his thoughts back to the present. Hallie seemed competent, very competent in fact. Caring, compassionate and quite attractive, too, with her red hair and brown eyes. But his days of caring about other women were gone. He’d buried his feelings in the grave, where he’d buried his wife and child, just over a year ago.

He lost his first wife and two kids 10 years ago and his second wife and daughter just last year, lol. He should see the psychiatrist as well, poor guy. His rich family can pay

Nicely done, Sally. I like how you set up both characters’ conflicts and the medical element itself. They are both ready for romance! –Patience

“You’re approximately ten minutes late, Ms. Bloom. You see, time,” says the deep and melodic voice of one Dr. Jelani Robinson. “Time,” He says addressing the room, “Is important in the medical community. Every second counts when it comes to the life of the patient, who is entrusting you to do all you can to prolong their existence. I trust that this will be your only transgression during the next six weeks, Ms. Bloom?”

Hallie wanted to shrink right back into the hole she’d managed to crawl out of. It didn’t help that seven interns, a nurse and an 80 year old prostate patient, were staring at her like actors in a Vincent Price horror film. However, she wouldn’t have her hard earned years in medical school degraded by being called ‘Ms. Bloom.’

Hallie grew up in a poor providence. While she was grateful to her parents for raising her from humble beginnings, Hallie wanted to do more. So, she headed to the states with a dream of obtaining a medical degree from a prestigious university. Before she could start her internship, Hallie returned to her childhood home in Haiti, after a devastating hurricane Florence ripped through. She managed to put her medical expertise to work and was even forgiven about half of her $250,000 medical school debt, by joining the Peace Corp.

However, that prestigious degree came at a cost. While she was able to stay in Haiti for a year and put her new found expertise to work, it cost her a year and several internships, which would’ve gained her the experience needed to land a decent job. Recently, however, Hallie was just granted a short internship at the prestigious Elizabeth Blackwell Medical center, and now she was hoping to land this major opportunity for good. She wouldn’t let anything or anyone, get in her way.

“It’s Dr. Bloom,” Hallie says looking to Dr. Robinson and standing at a position that said she deserved much more respect.

A faint smirk crossed some of the interns faces and Hallie felt she had redeemed her moment of embarrassment, by addressing the testosterone laden career path, known as trauma surgery. But Dr. Robinson was not moved and though Hallie felt the scorching heat of his glare, she was not ready to back down. Soon a faint smile crossed Dr. Robinson’s face and the room seemed to regain the air that was being sucked out of it a moment ago.

“Well, Dr. Bloom, see to it that you remain on time the rest of this rotation. Now,” he says back to addressing the room. “Let’s talk about prostates and what they should look like…”

Hallie tunes back in but she had something bothering her in the back of her mind. When all was said and done she watched everyone head to lunch and their respective places. But she had a question. Hallie sort of follows Dr. Robinson as he rushes towards the elevator.

“Are we supposed to pretend as if I didn’t just have dinner with you and your parents three nights ago, Jelani?” Hallie whispers careful not to alert anyone within earshot of their association with one another.

Jelani snapped his chart closed and sighed. “I had no idea I would be seeing you again after that. By the way, I thought your name was Julia? Anything else you care to share with me before we begin these next six weeks?”

Hallie couldn’t believe it. “I don’t have to explain myself to you. But you should inform me of what to expect now. After all, I’m not the one who called a high end escort service to find a date to meet my parents!”

Jelani chuckled. “First, keep it down. Second. High end date huh? I didn’t know I was being set up with an escort service. I asked a doctor friend of mine to find me someone for a dinner date on a Thursday to appease to my parents and there you were. By the way,” he says with a playful look in his eyes. “I never imagined seeing someone like you doing something like that. What’s the story? You don’t look like someone who would be in this line of work…I’m disappointed to say the least…”

“That…that is none of your business. You don’t know me. But. I know your type. Everyone isn’t born with a silver spoon, playboy.” she says while he rose an eyebrow.

“And you know me?” He poses.

“The rich, charismatic, suavely notorious Dr. Robinson.” Hallie says. “Graduated top of his medical class at Harvard, where he studied neuroscience and trauma surgery. Magna Cum Laude. Parents, are Dr. Ian Robinson and Laura Robinson, both wealthy. I hear you drive your Porsche on Tuesdays and your Mustang on Fridays. The Range Rover is for every other day. That super expensive watch,” she says pointing out his Rolex as he looked briefly, “that could have put me through medical school at no expense. Those red bottom dress shoes that could probably cover someone’s medical bill and that fountain pen that probably retails at more than my car is worth, tells me you wouldn’t know a hard life if it walked up to you and said ‘boo.’ So, please inform me of what you know about my life…” she says waving him off now.

Hallie sort of stepped back and took Jelani in. She forgot to mention he was fine as sin. He stood above six feet, he was lean and one could tell he worked out often. That lovely flawless chocolate skin. That bright white devious smile. Playful light brown eyes. His hair looked as if a ship could navigate those waves without a problem. His reputation precedes him. It did live up, however. But why did he need a date to begin with, was the burning question.

“Well you have me all figured out don’t you Dr. Bloom? But you still didn’t answer my question. Try to focus on something other than my suave and charismatic personality, Rolex or cars,” he says as he seemed to have moved closer to her during her rant.

Hallie took in his scent. He smelled like fresh linen hanging on the pink sand beaches of Bermuda. Hallie drew in a deep breath. His stature was enough to make any woman weak in the knees. Her eyes were on level with the middle of his chest. It was a strong, broad and seemingly tight chest that she found herself eye level with. His deep voice sort of called to her as he managed to get out a:


Hallie snapped back too. “Well what?”

“How did you find yourself in that line of work?”

“I found myself in this profession the same way you found yourself in need of it. Good day Dr. Robinson,” and with that Hallie spun on her heels and walked off.

Jelani looked to the direction Dr. Bloom walked to and sort of sighed. She had no idea what or why he needed someone that night. No one had an idea of what it was like to be him, everyone simply assumed. His parents were incorrigible. They wanted him to move on and forward. But how could he? The memory of his former life burned fresh in his mind, like the sun in the Sahara desert. It was a period in his life that was dark. He glanced in the direction Dr. Bloom left to and rolled his shoulders back. He then proceeded on to the elevator and down to the cafeteria…

Now that is some drama, Patricia! I thought the story was going in one direction, then you surprised me by going in another, which is always great fun. Well done! Good characters and nice use of the medical environment. –Patience

“It was a tough case, Dr. Bloom.” Jelanie still wore his surgical mask, making his face unreadable.
Hallie gritted her teeth. “I took bullets out of two teenagers my first day here. Kids with gunshot wounds.”
“We saved them.” He pulled off his mask. “You did well.” It was a real compliment from Dr. Jelani Robinson, the top trauma surgeon in the city. Not a bad start.
Hallie shrugged. “I don’t do well with after the emergency. I need to keep going because when it stops, the adrenaline has nowhere to go.” Stress and exhaustion were getting to her. She was saying too much.
“I used to take it out on the nearest junk food.” He motioned to his body, which didn’t look like the body of a stress eater. Long. Lean. Tight. “Now I take it out at the gym.”
“I took it out on the guy I was seeing.” Definitely saying too much.
He smiled warmly, the smile that was the talk of the nurses’ station. “How’d that work out?”
“Let’s just say that after Haiti, I’ve given up on disaster zones. And after that guy… I’ve given up on disaster zones.”
Jelani laughed, and Hallie laughed with him. The stress of three hours of surgery poured out. As the chuckles died, they both breathed deeply. He looked straight at her. “People rely upon us. We can do much good, but the burden is heavy… heavy is the head that wears the crown.”
“Yes, sire.” Hallie chuckled, and he smiled. Maybe it was the post-call haze, but she’d swear she saw a flash of something else in his face.

I think this would be a great scene later in a book with the premise provided in the description. It does a nice job of showing how the hero and the heroine have commonalities despite their differences. Yet, given the prompt, I would have loved to have seen some more tension here.

Elizabeth Blackwell Medical Center just received a notice that the mayor is coming in for cardiac arrest. Doctors Jelani Robinson and new comer Hallie Bloom are waiting for the ambulance to arrive. There had been a terrible car accident involving Mayor Le’quire who, at the wheel, suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to the nearest hospital, Elizabeth Blackwell Medical Center. Hallie Bloom didn’t know what to expect when she saw the mayor. He is banged up quite badly she noticed. Jelani usher’s her into the emergency room where they got him on the operating table. Here is her first day in the hospital and she needed to prove that she could handle working in a fast paced setting like the emergency room. All her studying and hard work will bound to pay off. She just needed to get pass seeing the one person she thought she’d never see and hope no one else will find out. It will would just kill her if people knew she’s the mayor daughter from another woman with whom he had an affair with. Before he got elected to be mayor, he paid her mother off to keep the baby under wraps and help fund her college courses but he had no idea she would be his doctor. Hallie wondered if she could even save the man who threw her away in shame. Maybe if she did nothing no one would ever know her secret. She certainly couldn’t risk Doctor Jelani Robinson from finding out. He usually rolls with the inner circle but she was afraid he’d look at her differently. It would be easy for him to snub others with his richness and Hallie put herself through school despite having money in the bank from dear old daddy mayor. She never touched the money and had planned on sending it back to him.
“What are you waiting on? Asks Doctor Jelani Robinson, Christmas? We got a life to save here. Get with the program or get out.
Hallie takes up the scapple to make an incision but her hands were shaky. Doctor Jelani Robinson watches motioning for her to get started. Sweat ran down her armpits. She was scared. She could do it if she just calmed down and not think about her father being on the table and her performing any operation on him.
“Hurry! We’re losing him! Doctor Jelani Robinson snaps his fingers bringing her back to reality but she gave the knife to the nurse and ran out of the emergency room. Once the operation was over the mayor was placed in the recovery room.
“What the hell was that? Doctor Jelani Robinson wanted to know. If I hadn’t been in the emergency room with you, who knows what would have happened to the mayor?
Hallie understood very much what could have happened but things worked out in the end. Mayor Le’quire is recovering. That’s all that matters. Right?
“Tell me why you bailed out like that. Doctor Jelani Robinson said as he sat down next to her.
Hallie moved away from him. She failed. Miserably. Rookie mistake indeed.
“Do you not realize what was at stake? Continues the doctor. A law suit certainly would have come against us and I be damned if I lose my license because of you.
“I’m sorry. I just froze. Chickened out. She answered sniffling. I know my job and know it well but when I saw him after all these years, I just couldn’t do it.
“What you mean by seeing him after all these years? Questioned Jelani Robinson. Hallie looks up at him with glistening eyes from crying, “Mayor Le’quire is my dad and a part of me just wanted to let him die on the table. Jelani is speechless and moves away from her as if she might try to hurt him. “When it comes to saving lives, it’s what we do. Not whom it is performed on. I can’t have you freezing up in The emergency room with a patient whether he’s your father or not. We save lives. Point blank. Nothing else matters.
“Easy for you to say. Hallie grumbled, at least your dad wasn’t a cheater and tried to hide it.”
“I don’t care if the Mayor wore a sundress every day, Jelani said, either you get with the program or ship out. Your choice.

You did a really nice job of creating tension in this scene. The emotions and the stakes were really high, so great job! I will note that there was a lot of information thrown at the reader at the beginning, though. It feels slightly overly expository. Oftentimes, just jumping into the action and revealing the background later can pack more of a punch.

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